Home News US elections: A Supreme Court decision comes with a warning for Democrats

US elections: A Supreme Court decision comes with a warning for Democrats

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The court deadlocked 4-4 on Monday night on a bid by Republicans to overturn a Pennsylvania court order that mail-in ballots received within three days of November 3 would still be counted. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s three liberals, meaning the lower court ruling stands. Since more Democrats vote by mail than Republicans, the case is likely to boost Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in this crucial swing state. In practical terms, the extended vote counting also means that a tight race in the Keystone State could turn election night into election week.

But the victory comes with a bitter taste for Democrats. Trump’s two confirmed nominees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, sided with two other conservative justices to back the Pennsylvania Republicans. It’s easy to imagine that had Trump’s latest far-right nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, been on the court, the conservative justices would have won 5-4.

Of course, it’s unwise to extrapolate too much from a single case, and Barrett might not play to type if she joins the high court. Casting a swing vote amid the furious heat of a disputed election would risk triggering an uproar, would define her own tenure in its infancy and would certainly fuel Democratic demands to pack the court with new liberal justices — a move that ultimately may concern conservatives more than Trump’s fate. Her position has been made more difficult by the President saying he needs to rush her onto the court in case he disputes the election results.

Court watchers see Monday’s order as a pivot to a new era. It is one of the last cases where Roberts will have the option to go against his own conservative instincts to shield the Court from politically explosive cases. And it suggests that future Republican challenges to voting rights will always find five friends on the top bench.

‘An epidemic of pathological grief’

Americans are experiencing “an epidemic of pathological grief” due to the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Charles Marmar, chair of the department of psychiatry at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, said Tuesday. Between people who have lost loved ones and those suffering more general stress, the emotional toll is widespread, Marmar told JAMA editor in chief Dr. Howard Bauchner. “Taken all together, 30 to 40% of the general population are burdened with stress, anxiety and depression, and a subgroup of three to four million Americans are deeply burdened by loss — and some of those quite severely,” said Marmar.

Lid time

As Trump plunges further off the rails 13 days before the election, Biden is sticking to the slow and steady strategy he’s used all year.

Ahead of the next and last presidential debate, the Democratic nominee hunkered down in his home state of Delaware on Tuesday to hit the briefing books. At 9:32 a.m., his campaign declared a “lid” — a signal to the journalists following Biden that he was staying home all day.
Trump’s team has had great fun with Biden’s early lids, claiming they are a sign he is too old for the demands of the presidency. Trump himself is barnstorming across the country, holding several rallies a day despite the Covid-19 risk to his fans. But Biden’s low-wattage approach worked when he won the Democratic nomination, and taking debate prep seriously helped him emerge unscathed from Trump’s effort to trample him in their first televised clash.

On Thursday, by the way, the candidates’ microphones will be muted for the first two minutes of each topic area when their rival speaks, in a bid to prevent Trump turning the event into another farce. With typical Trump world bellicosity, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said this meant Biden would have to speak for more than 30 seconds and he would stumble into “disasters.”

Biden’s unruffled approach is coinciding with the first signs of a Democratic freakout as the election nears. The recurring condition, diagnosed by Barack Obama’s former political guru David Plouffe as “bedwetting,” is marked by obsessive refreshing of political forecasting sites and outright panic at any poll that shows the race tightening.

Whoever you want to win, election night will be a wild ride of nerves, joy and despair, so maybe Biden is right to stay low-key. After the turbulence of the last four years, who couldn’t do with an early lid?

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